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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

July 25, 2023

Table of Contents

Addiction is a family disease issue that affects not only the person struggling with substance abuse but also their entire families. The impact of addiction can be far-reaching, impacting various aspects of family dynamics and relationships.

In this guide, we will explore the following key issues:

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  • How does addiction affect families?
  • How does alcoholism affect families?
  • How does drug addiction affect families?
  • How does addiction affect family dynamics?
  • What issues are faced by children living with parents who have a substance use disorder?
  • Does addiction run in families?
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Living With an Addict

Living with a person battling addiction can be an incredibly challenging and stressful experience for family members. The effects of addiction can permeate every aspect of daily life, creating an environment of uncertainty, fear, and emotional turmoil. How addiction affects families may include:

  • Emotional rollercoaster: Families of drug addicts often find themselves dealing with unpredictable mood swings, erratic behavior, and emotional instability. Family members may find themselves walking on eggshells, never knowing what to expect from their loved one. This constant state of tension can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and even feelings of resentment or anger.
  • Codependency and enabling: Family members may unintentionally develop codependent relationships with the addict, where their lives become centered around managing and supporting the addiction. They may enable the addict’s behavior by making excuses, covering up their actions, or providing financial and emotional support despite the negative consequences. Breaking free from codependency and learning healthy boundaries is crucial for both the addict and the family members.
  • Trust and communication breakdown: Addiction can erode trust within the family unit. Actions like lying, stealing, or breaking promises, can leave family members feeling betrayed and hurt. Open and honest communication becomes increasingly challenging as the addict may deny or downplay their addiction, leading to further strain on relationships.
  • Neglect of personal needs: Living with an addict often means putting the needs of the addict before one’s own. Family members may sacrifice their own well-being, social life, and personal goals to cater to the addict’s demands or to maintain a semblance of normalcy. This self-neglect can lead to increased stress, feelings of isolation, and a decline in physical and mental health.
  • Seeking support: It is vital for family members to seek support for themselves. Counseling, therapy, or support groups specifically designed for families of addicts can provide a safe space to share experiences, gain insights, and learn coping strategies. These support systems offer validation, guidance, and encouragement, helping family members navigate the challenges they face.
  • Self-care: Engaging in self-care activities is vital for family members living with an addict. Taking time for oneself, pursuing hobbies, maintaining social connections, and prioritizing physical and emotional well-being are crucial for maintaining resilience and preventing burnout. By nurturing their own needs, family members can better support the addict while also preserving their own mental and emotional health.
  • Setting boundaries: Establishing and maintaining clear boundaries is essential when living with an addict. Family members must communicate their limits and expectations firmly but compassionately. Setting boundaries can involve refusing to participate in enabling behaviors, refusing to tolerate abusive or destructive behavior, and seeking professional help for the addict rather than trying to handle everything alone.

Living with an addict is undoubtedly challenging, but it’s important to remember that support and help are available. By seeking guidance, education, and support, family members can develop the tools needed to navigate this difficult journey. Recovery is possible not just for the addict but also for the entire family, as they learn to heal, establish healthier dynamics, and create a supportive environment that fosters long-term well-being for all.

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Children of Drug Addicts

How does addiction affect family relationships between parents and children? Children growing up in households with parents addicted to drugs face unique and significant challenges. They may witness destructive behaviors, experience neglect or abuse, and have their physical, emotional, and educational needs unmet due to parental substance abuse. These ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) can have long-lasting effects on the development of children with addicted parents, leading to issues like low self-esteem, emotional instability, poor academic performance, and a higher risk of substance abuse themselves. Recognizing the impact on children and providing them with support, stability, and access to counseling is crucial for breaking the cycle of addiction.

Parents of Addicts

Parents of drug addicts often experience profound feelings of guilt, shame, and helplessness. They may blame themselves for their child’s addiction and struggle with a range of conflicting emotions. It is important for parents to seek support from professional counselors or support groups to address their own emotional well-being and learn healthy coping strategies. Education about addiction, setting boundaries, and practicing self-care can help parents navigate the challenges they face while supporting their child’s recovery journey.

How to Help a Loved One with Addiction

Supporting a loved one with addiction can be challenging, but there are practical steps you can take to help:

  • Educate yourself: Learn about addiction, its causes, and available treatment options. Understanding the nature of addiction will help you approach your loved one with empathy and knowledge.
  • Express concern and offer support: Approach your loved one with empathy and non-judgment. Express your concern for their well-being and offer your support in seeking professional help or treatment.
  • Emphasize the benefits of professional help: Encourage your loved one to engage with professional help from rehab centers, therapists, or counselors who specialize in evidence-based addiction recovery.
  • Set healthy boundaries: It’s essential to establish clear boundaries and communicate them effectively. This may involve avoiding enabling behaviors and not condoning or participating in destructive actions related to their addiction.
  • Practice self-care: Supporting someone with an addiction can be emotionally draining. Prioritize your own well-being by seeking support from support groups, therapy, or engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
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Get Your Loved One the Help They Need at Renaissance Recovery 

Whether you are the parent of a drug-addicted teen or a young adult with parents addicted to drugs, we can help you get your family unit back on track at Renaissance Recovery in Southern California.

For those who do not need the structure and support of inpatient rehab, consider the following treatment programs at our beachside facility:

All treatment programs at Renaissance deliver individualized addiction treatment that combines science-backed and holistic therapies, such as:

Let us help you break the chains of addiction at Renaissance. Call 866.330.9449 today for assistance from detox to discharge and beyond.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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